A hero former lifeguard and his wife rescued a surfer caught up in a rip tide and high seas before they hauled him a mile and a half to safety, it was revealed yesterday.
Alex Marshall, a reggae and hip-hop artist who performs as Fiyah Marshall, was thrown against rocks in a bay off Paget after he got into trouble while out on his board.
But Beau Franklin, who has worked as a lifeguard in Bermuda and Australia, and his wife, Ali Watlington, spotted he was in trouble and went to his rescue.
Mr Franklin said: “My opinion, based on what was going on, is that he was probably going to drown.
“Unfortunately, he lost his surfboard and found himself in a particularly dangerous part of the bay.
“He was unable to get himself into the bay or out from the rocks.
“He was not involved in any misadventure; he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Mr Marshall said: “Despite being able-bodied, it proved extremely difficult to escape from what became a spinning vortex of waves and rip tide, which proceeded to throw me against the rocks several times.
“I released myself from the surfboard thinking it would alleviate me being dragged by the waves back on to the rocks but this worsened the situation as I was pummelled by the large waves and the rip tide.”
The 33-year-old added: “Many thanks to those who assisted.”
The drama began as Mr Marshall and friend Mohamed Hamza surfed in Hungry Bay last Sunday at lunchtime.
Mr Marshall, who said he was not an experienced surfer, but a strong swimmer, explained that the weather did not appear too rough for surfing.
However, a strong rip tide formed and smashed him into rocks several times.
Mr Hamza was picked up by the swell and deposited safely on top of the rocks.
Ms Watlington, 40, swam to Mr Marshall and pulled him away from the rocks, but the swells were too rough for her to get him all the way to shore.
Mr Franklin said: “He was being pulled out to sea and was too fatigued — there was too much risk of crashing waves and submerged rocks.
“The waves coming in were washing him on to the rocks. Ali brought him out through the swell and at that point we swapped.
He added: “I elected to paddle him down the coast to a safer place to get him out.
“Ali swam into the bay and located a boogie board and swam it to us. He floated on the board and held on to me as I paddled and towed him about a mile and a half out to the base of Kent Avenue and Ocean Avenue.”
Mr Franklin, 49, from Paget, said: “It was very safe — I did an assessment of him. He was coherent but fatigued. He wasn’t in danger of passing out, he hadn’t swallowed too much water, he wasn’t going into shock.
“I paddled him outside the reef line dodging the big ocean swells, down to Kent Avenue and navigated the reef line to get him into the beach at the bottom, where it was calmer.”
Mr Franklin, who was involved in the creation of the Bermuda Lifeguard Service, warned that extra care was needed in Bermuda’s small bays, especially when there are major storms in the area and where there are steep shorelines.
He said: “If there is a named storm the safest places to swim are the patrolled beaches. If there are warning flags, people need to abide by them.
“When there are big swells on South Shore, stay away from small bays like Hungry Bay where there are dangerous rip currents.”
Mr Franklin added that Warwick’s Southlands and Warwick Long Bay were the most dangerous places to swim, even on a calm day because of the combination of steep shorelines and the quick formation of rip tides.
He said: “Before you swim, look and see where you can see the water running back out — sometimes you will see seaweed going back out to sea.
“Don’t go there because it is a rip current. That’s where the water forced on to shore is finding its way back out to sea.”
Mr Franklin added that experienced surfers had rescued a lot of people over the years.
He said: “The surfing community really does supplement for the lifeguard service.”
A spokeswoman for the national security ministry said yesterday: “As Hurricane Florence passes Bermuda on its approach to the US East Coast, the island’s beaches will experience dangerous rip currents, especially on the south shore.
“Coastal flooding is possible along the south shore and harbours that have inlets on the South Shore as southeasterly winds increase.
She added that the public should pay attention to several warnings issued in the past two weeks about the danger of storm-fuelled seas.
The Department of Parks have placed high surf warning signs on all public South Shore beaches from John Smith’s Bay to West Whale Bay, but Hungary Bay is private.
A department spokeswoman said lifeguards are on duty at Horseshoe Bay from 10am to 6pm. She added: “The Lifeguard Service finished at Clearwater Beach and Turtle Bay the week ending August 26.
“There is an existing small staff of five full-time lifeguards and a Lifeguard Superintendent and they will operate until October 31 seven days a week.
“In the interest of safety, park and beach patrons should use extreme caution and common sense especially on the South Shore beaches where the dangerous rip currents are more prevalent.”
A spokesman from the Bermuda Police Service added that members of the public should observe weather and marine condition warnings.
He added: “To not do so puts their life — and the live of any potential rescuer — unnecessarily at risk.”